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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

MODERN   GERMAN  LITERATURE

The milieu is mystically oriental, and the concatenation of opaque
symbols and the ideology have a faint impress of Maeterlinck's
Bte Bird: unborn children (here 'die Ungewtinscbtcn9} live in the cave
of perfect beauty and morals, and to them alone is granted the
vision of the divine. In true marriage the wife is not a tethered
goat, nor the husband (in the act) 'something of panther and
snake'. Sexual desire is symbolized as a demon with hypnotic
power over the female. But woman has a spiritual virginity, and
this is only well lost when spirit enters spirit; and thus the wife
in the story who submits to her husband's contact is made woman
by desire for a spirit being.1 What the 'shadow' is is not very
clear; it is, however, clear that the woman's shadow floats away
when for the first time she is united in spiritually passionate love
with her great hulk of a husband; and, therefore, to cast a shadow
means to have a baby. In Das Marchen der 672. Nacht (1904) - the
style of which points forward to Franz Kafka - we have again the
theme of Der Tor und der Tod - the rich young aesthete who by his
very riches is removed from the poignancy of life.

Hofmannsthal's Erfundene Gesprache und 'Briefe contain some of
the most fascinating criticism of recent years. The essay Vber Cha-
raktere im TLoman undim Drama^ an imaginary conversation between
Balzac and the German orientalist Hammer-Purgstall, puts in the
mouth of the French novelist what is really a terrible description
- notable in contrast with Thomas Mann's doctrine - of the artist
as the stoker who, half-naked, grimed, and with blood-shot eyes,
in the South Seas creeps for a short space on to the deck of the
luxurious steamer, throws himself on a bundle of tow, casts a
surreptitious glance at the first-class passengers, and plunges down
into the hold again without having seen the lovely islands in the
haze. And yet he is not wretched - his fate is in his work, which
gives him everything down below. Farben is an interpretation in
epistolary form of impressionism, with Van Gogh as pattern: the
secret of impressionistic technique is to take anything (Rilke's
'umvahkrisches Schauerf\ show its innermost life, its very nature,
and to set this in high colours and in prominent grouping against a
meaningless background; and such impressions of existence prove
existence simply because by the very vividness of their colouring
and contours they shock the spectator out of his dulled conscious-

1 *Er hat mid %ur Frau gemaeh^ ohne micb ?u beruhrett - the motif which
occurs in Efektra,